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National Expungement Week

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National Expungement Week (N.E.W.) takes place September 19-25 this year, raising awareness about a potentially life-changing option in our legal system for individuals who have a cannabis-related conviction on their record.

Expungement: To “expunge” is to “erase or remove completely.” In law, “expungement” is the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from state or federal record. An expungement order directs the court to treat the criminal conviction as if it had never occurred, essentially removing it from a defendant’s criminal record as well as, ideally, the public record.

Despite the growing number of states decriminalizing cannabis and even legalizing it for medical or recreational use, millions of individuals are still negatively impacted by past marijuana convictions. Expungement of cannabis related convictions from a person’s record may eliminate certain barriers to housing and employment.

To support these efforts, Verilife will donate 5% of all sales from matter. flower products in dispensaries in Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Massachusetts to Legal Aid Chicago. Legal Aid Chicago is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to people living in poverty in Cook County.

The Impact of Cannabis Convictions

According to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

  • Someone is arrested for a marijuana offense every 58 seconds.
  • 43% of all drug arrests in 2018 were for marijuana.
  • The overwhelming majority of marijuana arrests — 89.6% — are for possession only.
  • Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.
  • In 31 states, racial disparities were actually larger in 2018 than they were in 2010.

Expungement may create certain opportunities when and where available, but it can be a complicated process that isn’t available in every state. Organizations across the country are trying to develop local legislation that would help individuals whose lives have been negatively impacted.

“Briefly put, expungement and sealing allows someone to put their past behind them and move on with their life,” said Melissa Picciola, Legal Aid Chicago’s director of volunteer services.

About Legal Aid Chicago

Legal Aid Chicago provides a wide array of legal services to help people break the cycle of poverty. While Illinois has added cannabis-related arrests and convictions to the list of offenses eligible for expungement and sealing, the procedure can be quite complicated. Legal Aid Chicago regularly holds expungement clinics in which volunteer attorneys prepare expungement petitions to provide criminal record relief.

Recreational Cannabis is not available in all states. Cannabis is for medical use only and may only be used by certified patients in Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.

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